The NFL season is just around the corner and the Carolina Panthers are searching for better improvement. Matt Rhule and the front office have put together an impressive young roster who hope to take the league by storm. Carolina plays in an NFC South division that's led by the defending Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This franchise still has a bit to go until they make their way back to the postseason, but this team has built a solid foundation for their rebuild. The Panthers have one of the youngest rosters in the league right now, which bodes well for their future outlook. They should have some growing pains this season, but it'll lead to better improvement down the road.
Even so, the defense looks fantastic on paper and could be a surprisingly solid group. The front office brought Sam Darnold in as he looks to take advantage of his second chance. Meanwhile, a rookie receiver has the potential to be a star in the NFL and Christian McCaffrey rejoins the offense. With that said, here are four bold predictions for the Panthers' 2021 NFL season.
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4. Panthers defense finishes top 10
This is a long shot but similar to Lloyd Christmas dating Mary Swanson, there's still a chance. The Panthers' defensive core is built with young, high-energy, motivated players. Brian Burns and Derrick Brown are wrecking balls on the defensive line, while Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn hold it down in the secondary.
Although this defense is young, they have a ton of talent the fans should be excited about. They have the potential to become an elite defense soon and could be on the right path in 2021. Keep an eye on this defensive unit, as they could be a surprise group this year.
3. Sam Darnold has a bounce-back year
It's been a rough start to his career but Sam Darnold was gifted a new beginning. Most of the league seems to agree that Darnold can be a franchise quarterback. He's now in a much better situation in Carolina, which could be very promising. Darnold has the tools around him to be a solid quarterback, which improves the Panthers' chances of immediate success.
The offense still runs through Christian McCaffrey, but with Darnold under center, the offense might be more willing to air it out a bit. With DJ Moore and Robby Anderson as the starting wide receivers, the Panthers have legitimate deep threats out wide. Darnold is primed for a bounce-back season with the Carolina Panthers.
2. Terrace Marshall Jr. finishes as the best rookie wide receiver in 2021
The Panthers' second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft has been developing nicely from the start of training camp. Terrace Marshall Jr. has caught the eyes of the coaching staff, teammates, and the media with his stellar play throughout the preseason. After the front office elected to cut David Moore, Marshall is in line to play as the third option in the Panthers' passing game.
Even so, this kid has the potential to become a major contributor sooner, rather than later. In fact, it'd be wise to put him on the outside in three-receiver sets and let DJ Moore run it from the slot. Although Terrace Marshall Jr. wasn't the first receiver taken in the draft, he's in a situation to make the most noise in the first year of his career. Look for Darnold to find Marshall frequently, as the Panthers need this type of production to succeed.
1. Christian McCaffrey leads the league in total scrimmage yards
Christian McCaffrey comes back after dealing with injuries throughout most of last season. He likely could have come back but since the Panthers were out of the playoff race, the coaching staff didn't want to risk it. Now, McCaffrey rejoins his team and looks to play as one of the best running backs in the league.
He will serve as the driving force for this offense, as McCaffrey is dangerous everywhere on the field. He's the perfect complement to Sam Darnold, as Carolina's new quarterback will need consistent play out of the backfield to help regain confidence. Look for Christian McCaffrey to be at the top of his game and remind the entire league why he's the highest-paid running back in football.